Peabody Opera Workshop presents
 

Three French Operas

Adonis

by Jean-Philippe Rameau

libretto by Pierre-Joseph Bernard

The Baltimore Baroque Band

Adam Pearl, conductor

Members of the Peabody Ballet

Carol A. Bartlett, choreographer

Roger Brunyate, stage director

with

L’ivrogne corrigé

The Drunkard Reformed

by Christoph Willibald von Gluck

libretto by Anselme and Sauterre

Roger Brunyate, music director

Stephanie Miller, stage director

Ta-Wei Tsai, piano

and

Rita

by Gaetano Donizetti

libretto by Gustave Vaëz

Roger Brunyate, music and stage director

John Wilson, piano
 

Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall
Monday, October 19, 2009, at 7:30 PM
Admission free
 
Peabody Opera home

So a Frenchman, a German, and an Italian walk into a bistro…. If this sounds like the beginning of a joke, it is merely the prelude to a triple-bill of one-act operas that we indeed believe will be fun. All three works on the program were originally written in French, and will be performed in that language. But all three are rarities, at least in that form. Rameau’s short opera-ballet Adonis belongs to a different aesthetic than our own, and has not even been recorded. Gluck’s L’ivrogne corrigé and Donizetti’s Rita have had to be translated back into the language of their respective composers to achieve any number of performances. Nonetheless, French is the preferred tongue for comedy of amorous seduction and domestic farce; the fact that our three composers all speak it with a different accent only adds spice to the meal.

Jean-Philippe Rameau Venus and Adonis fountain at Versailles
J. P. RameauFountain of Venus and Adonis at Versailles

Adonis is one of a number of short works that Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764) first presented as a triple bill at Versailles in 1748, collectively entitled Les surprises de l'amour (The Surprises of Love). Peabody last presented the work with another opera in the set, Anacréon, at the Walters Art Gallery in 1998. Actually, there is nothing very surprising about love anywhere in this series; love happens, and its force is irresistible. The plot of Adonis is simple: Adonis, a beautiful young man dedicated to the chaste service of Diana, is approached by Cupid, whom he at first fails to recognize and rejects. Cupid leads him to Venus, who claims his love. When Diana hears of his defection, she bursts into a rage, but this is unavailing. Venus turns Adonis into a tree, where she may freely visit him, but he will be safe from Diana. Adonis is one of a number of works that Rameau called opéra-ballets, where the dancing is as important as the singing; though necessarily reduced in our production, the dance element will be provided by dancers from the Peabody Preparatory, as choreographed by Carol A. Bartlett. Adam Pearl will lead the Baltimore Baroque Band from the harpsichord. Roger Brunyate will direct.

Hogarth: Beer Lane (part) Gluck
Hogarth’s vision of public drunkennessC. W. von Gluck

L’ivrogne corrigé (The Drunkard Reformed) was originally a setting by another composer, Jean-Louis Laruette, of a musical play by Louis Anseaume and Jean-Baptiste Lourdot de Sauterre, for production in Paris in 1759. But when the play was brought to Vienna in the following year, the music was entrusted to a local composer, Christoph Willibald von Gluck (1714–87). The play’s the thing, as Hamlet said; clearly the music did not count for much. But Gluck’s music, even before the triumph of his Orfeo ed Euridice in 1762 and the masterpieces that followed, is varied and by no means negligible. Ranging from popular drinking songs to ensembles that set the path for later opera buffa, its great strength is probably a number of arias that begin in typical baroque fashion, but subvert the old forms for dramatic or parodistic ends. The plot concerns a bibulous merchant who will not allow his niece to marry her sweetheart because he has promised her to his drinking buddy; he learns his lesson when his family make him believe he has died during a bender and gone to the underworld, there to be tormented by vengeful Furies. It may seem paper-thin, but a lot of 18th-century comedies address real social evils of the time, such as drunkenness and spousal abuse (which also forms the subject of our third piece). Roger Brunyate is the music director and Stephanie Miller, who scored such success with A Game of Chance last year, is the stage director.

Gaetano Donizetti RITA at Covent Garden
G. DonizettiScene from Rita at Covent Garden

Rita, though short and unperformed in the composer’s lifetime (1797–1848), is first-rate mature Donizetti, coming nine years after L'elisir d'Amore (1832) and two years before Don Pasquale (1842). The idea came from the librettist, Gustave Vaëz, who met Donizetti in Paris in 1841. It is easy to see why the subject should have appealed to the composer; it contains many of the same elements as L’elisir: the attractive but dominating soprano, the rather timid tenor, and the braggart baritone who arrives, changes everything between the couple, and then leaves again. Certainly in this beautifully proportioned score (an aria for each character, a duet for each possible combination, and a trio finale), Donizetti recaptured all the tuneful invention of his earlier masterpiece. Once again, the subject is spousal abuse. Rita, the owner of a country inn, had been regularly beaten by her first husband, Gasparo, who has drowned while emigrating to Canada. She has since married the gentle Peppe, but turns the tables by beating him. So when Gasparo, who has not drowned, returns home, Peppe is only to glad to resign the role of husband. But Gasparo, who has heard that Rita has herself died, has only come back for proof of this, so that he can marry again. The two men play various games of chance to decide who shall have the privilege of losing, but Gasparo is much better at trickery than the naive Peppe. Eventually, the matter is sorted out, with Rita and Peppe both swearing to refrain from violence, so that Gasparo can set off for Canada once again. Roger Brunyate is both the music and stage director.


Adonis

L’Amour Nola Richardson
Vénus Elizabeth Merrill
Diane Sara MacKimmie
Adonis Benjamin Shaver
Un plaisir Tyler Lee
Deux nymphes Sarah Hayashi
Simha Haddad
Ensemble Sarah Errickson
William Mayer

L’ivrogne corrigé

Colette Hilary LaBonte
Catherine Alana Kolb
Mathurin Nicholas Fichter
Cléon William McCullough
Lucas Matthew Sullivan

Rita

Rita Solen Mainguené
Peppe Curtis Bannister
Gasparo William Schaller